According to some in Ghana, waakye (pronouced ‘waa-chi’) is an everyday food.
I don’t disagree. The dish can be served a million different ways to satisfy any mood.
Waakye is a traditional breakfast dish originating from Ghana’s northern most regions. At the core of waakye is a medley of black-eyed peas and rice boiled together until soft. From there, the traditional waakye trimmings are stew, shito (pronounced ’sheet-o’, not ’shit-o’), garri (from cassava), and a boiled egg and/or a side of meat or fish. The contemporary waakye trimmings are salad, angel hair pasta, and fried plantain.
The key to good waakye is the stew, a tomato based sauce heavy on palm oil, that unifies the individual ingredients and balances the dish.
Shito, a hot black pepper sauce, is a popular accompaniment in many Ghanaian dishes. If you haven’t tried it before, ask the attendant to put ‘small shito’ last on your waakye order. You have to try it. if you don’t like it, it’s easy to take out.
On approaching a waakye bar, you will notice a large spread laid out before the attendant with each ingredient in its own bowl. First, order your core. Then add the trimmings. My standard waakye trimmings are garri, pasta, shito, a boiled egg, and stew on the side.
In Accra, everyone has their own opinion of who serves the best waakye in town. During my preliminary research into this age old debate I discovered that the leading contenders in the debacle were Katawodieso and Auntie Muni’s.
So I tried them both.
Katawodieso, near Labone junction in Osu, is set back from the hustle and bustle of Oxford street. Walking into the chop bar, the bar is to the right and the dining room is to the right. The back of the chop bar opens into a courtyard where everything is cooked. Since the bar is conveniently located between Osu and Labone, I usually stop in and take my waakye to go. It seems like most people do. Whenever I drop by there are never many people lingering.
Aunti Muni’s, near Zenith Bank in Labone, is a pop-up chop bar that sets-up only on the weekends. Every Saturday and Sunday Aunti Muni’s starts serving from 8:00 am and there is always a line. Some people come with a large bowl to take waakye home for the family. It is quite a show. The minimum portion sizes are larger than Katawodieso and Aunti Muni’s charges accordingly.
Auntie Muni’s doesn’t have a sign but you can’t miss it. Next to the bar is a large dining area shaded by a canopy.
After tasting waakye from Katawodieso and Aunti Muni’s I couldn’t say that I preferred one over the other, they were both good. Sometimes the stew and shito used in waakye is made with fish oil and/or fish powder. For me, this is a huge deal breaker; but I didn’t taste anything fishy at Katawodieso or Aunti Muni’s.
Unable to choose a clear winner, I consulted a friend. My friend opined that Nima, a neighborhood near Labone with a large northern community, is the place to go for the best waakye in town.
To be continued.